Meals on Wheels canceled in bad weather, emergency box comes handy

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – The return of a program that helps make sure seniors won't go hungry comes in handy on days like today.

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Eau Claire County said its Meals on Wheels program was canceled on Monday. That makes it the seventh time meals weren’t delivered due to the snowy and cold weather this season.

But thanks to the Feed My People Food Bank, the 370 participating seniors in the program have a backup plan. The non-profit recently donated 450 emergency food boxes to the program, said volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels, Kaylynn Stahlbusch.

“Feed My People contacted us this year and said we'd like to do something to work with senior hunger so they were able to put together a really wonderful box. Wherein years previous, we were only able to do one or two meals, they were able to do close to twenty meals per person in an emergency food box,” said Stahlbusch.

Because of dwindling funding, she said Meals on Wheels wasn’t able to provide emergency food boxes for the last couple of years. But now, donations have made it possible.

“Since all of these people are in their homes, the box contains meals they can make like spaghetti sauce and things like that or canned foods, shelf-stable foods,” said Stahlbusch.

She said volunteers are the most dedicated when it comes to delivering meals.

“They’ll go out in any weather and much like a postman, they’ll thrown on their boots and a jacket and they’ll just go out and get it done,” said Stahlbusch.

But there are days when it’s much too dangerous for volunteers to go out, many whom are of retired-age themselves.

“When schools are closed, we make a decision not to deliver most of our routes just because side streets are really hard to clear fast enough for our volunteers,” said Stahlbusch.

Joyce and Norman La Nou have been volunteering for the last 13 years. They’ve been married for 67 years and at ages 84 and 88, the two say they are older than many of the folks they deliver to.

“You really get to know them and they get to know you and if you're not on one day they wonder if you're sick,” said Joyce. “They’re very thankful that they get a hot meal.”

Norman said he enjoys volunteering because it keeps him busy.

“I’ve been retired for about 15 years now. It’s something to look forward to. Right after I retired, I worked for Habitat for Humanity for a couple of years and then we started doing this,” said Norman.

Joyce said it’s unfortunate when hot meals can’t be delivered, but when it comes to safety she would rather stay home out of the winter storm.

“It sometimes isn't that safe going up to these steps to some of the homes,” said Joyce.

Stahlbusch said it also can be a dangerous situation for elderly people coming to the door to get their meals, especially when temperatures are sub-zero.

There are still a number of emergency food boxes at the Aging And Disability Resource Center in Eau Claire County. To see if you're qualified to receive one, call them at 715-839-4763.

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